De Geomanteia Recap, and a Huge Thank You

As I mentioned last time, I completed the small little journey I set out on about five months ago to describe each of the geomantic figures and a bit about geomantic technique on my blog at the rate of one post per week.  It’s been a fantastic trip, and I hope you guys got a lot out of it; it encouraged me to dig through my old notes and meditations on the subject, as well as having spurred me to do more original geomantic research.  Since some people like things being made easy for them, I present to you a list of all the De Geomanteia posts I made, separated out into the posts on technique and the figures.

The posts on geomantic technique:

  1. On the Via Puncti and its variations in the shield chart
  2. On perfection, aspect, favorability, and affirmation
  3. On determining time and timeframes with geomancy
  4. On using geomancy and the figures in magic and ritual

The posts on the geomantic figures (not in chronological order):

  1. Populus
  2. Via
  3. Albus
  4. Coniunctio
  5. Puella
  6. Amissio
  7. Fortuna Maior
  8. Fortuna Minor
  9. Puer
  10. Rubeus
  11. Acquisitio
  12. Laetitia
  13. Tristitia
  14. Carcer
  15. Caput Draconis
  16. Cauda Draconis

Feel free to share this or any of the other posts in the De Geomanteia series.  This certainly won’t be the end of geomancy posts here at the Digital Ambler, that’s for sure, so keep an eye out for more meditations on the figures and technique in the future.

Also, I wanted to thank all my readers for making this an awesome week.  On Tuesday, the Digital Ambler crossed the 100,000 hit mark, which is a fantastic milestone.  It’s a nontrivial thing, too, since the blog has only been online for less than two years!  Between Facebook, Twitter, and other people’s blogs and sites, I’ve been getting lots of traffic in ways I wouldn’t’ve imagined a year or so ago (like from Bungie gaming forums or discussions of grimoires I’ve only dreamed of working with).  You guys are awesome for having helped me out and been with me on this fantastic Hermetic journey, and I see no signs of it stopping anywhere soon.  Keep reading, dear readers, and I hope you enjoy the future with me.

Happy geomancing and happy ambling, you guys!

De Geomanteia: Geomantic Magic (let this spell last forever)

Since one of my most favorite topics in occultism and magic is divination, specifically the divinatory art of geomancy, why not talk about that? I know a lot about it, and not many do, so let’s go with it. If nothing else, you’ll come away slightly more educated, and I’ll come away with something looking like productivity. With that in mind, let’s continue this little series of posts on geomancy, “De Geomanteia” (On Geomancy). This (last and final) week, let’s talk about technique instead of figures. Specifically, let’s talk about how to apply geomancy and geomantic figures to magic.

Yes, dear reader, magic. That fabulous art and science of causing a change in conformity with will, the thing I talk about near non-stop on this blog.  This (yet again) lengthy post on geomantic technique will review just a few of the ways one might apply geomancy to magic, since the sky is literally the limit here (at least in terms of celestial spheres).  So get a drink and a snack, put on your robe and wizard hat, and let’s begin.

Just as the planets in astrology can lend themselves to either divination or magic, so too can geomancy by incorporating the figures and their associations in magical ritual, talisman creation, and the like.  Keep in mind that a geomantic figure is nothing more than a collection of elemental forces, where each of the four elements is either active or passive, present or missing, on or off. In one sense, each geomantic figure can be seen as an alchemical formula that reveals a particular state of the cosmos.  Further, by figuring out the ruling element of the mixture, we can divine the overall elemental nature of a certain combination of elements. For instance, Coniunctio (air and water active), with its fluidity in emotional response and mental communication, lends itself very well to the element whose primary nature is wet: Air.

In addition to their elemental formulae and overall correspondences, the geomantic figures are also associated with the planets and signs of the zodiac.  Through these, they’re tied into the ancient and well-known field of planetary magic, which can incorporate the geomantic figures as well into their rituals.  For instance, when I want to work with the darker, more destructive side of Mars, I’d probably pick Rubeus or Cauda Draconis; for wealth magic, I’d go with jovial Acquisitio.  This also ties the geomantic figures into the planetary sephiroth in Qabbalah, which is an extensive set of systems in its own right.  For instance, Coniunctio is associated with Virgo and Mercury, and through those the sephirah Hod, the number 8, the color orange, and the like.  If you’ve forgotten what those are, review the other De Geomanteia posts on the figures for their elemental, planetary, zodiacal, and qabbalistic associations, the paragraph on the “technical details” of the figures near the start and the last paragraph that describes their divinatory and magical interpretations.

Another way to understand the figures is by expanding them to entire charts.  Due to the nature of geomantic chart construction, there are 16×16×16×16 = 65536 possible legal charts used in geomancy, but subsets of them have special properties.  One set, which I call “unique charts”, is the set of all charts that make use of 15 geomantic figures without repeating (excluding the Sentence figure, which of mathematical necessity must repeat from the foregoing 15 figures, and none of the figures in the first 15 figures of the shield chart can be Populus, which would induce repetition).  There are 16 such unique charts, which makes the prospect of linking each one to the sixteen geomantic figures tempting.  One of the members on the Geomantic Campus Yahoo! mailing list (which everyone interested in geomancy should join), Frater Pyramidatus, uncovered a way to assign these 16 unique charts to the 16 figures of geomancy as a way to expand and fully capture the “essence” of the figure in a whole geomantic chart.  Though I won’t reproduce the method or the full set of charts here, the Mother figures to generate each chart are as follows (in order from First to Fourth Mother):

  1. Populus: Caput Draconis, Amissio, Fortuna Maior, Tristitia
  2. Via: Puer, Caput Draconis, Tristitia, Albus
  3. Albus: Fortuna Minor, Rubeus, Puer, Amissio
  4. Coniunctio: Laetitia, Fortuna Minor, Puer, Coniunctio
  5. Puella: Cauda Draconis, Caput Draconis, Tristitia, Albus
  6. Amissio: Fortuna Minor, Rubeus, Carcer, Cauda Draconis
  7. Fortuna Maior: Puella, Cauda Draconis, Tristitia, Albus
  8. Fortuna Minor: Acquisitio, Puella, Albus, Fortuna Maior
  9. Puer: Rubeus, Laetitia, Caput Draconis, Puer
  10. Rubeus: Caput Draconis, Carcer, Albus, Fortuna Maior
  11. Acquisitio: Rubeus, Laetitia, Cauda Draconis, Caput Draconis
  12. Laetitia: Coniunctio, Puella, Fortuna Maior, Tristitia
  13. Tristitia: Rubeus, Laetitia, Cauda Draconis, Puella
  14. Carcer: Rubeus, Laetitia, Puella, Puer
  15. Caput Draconis: Puella, Puer, Tristitia, Albus
  16. Cauda Draconis: Laetitia, Fortuna Minor, Acquisitio, Cauda Draconis

Further, because of the mathematics of geomancy, whole charts can be added to each other to yield new charts by adding each figure in one chart to its corresponding figure in the other (e.g. chart 1 First Mother + chart 2 First Mother = chart 3 First Mother).  Based on this, we can obtain charts (not unique, but still significant) that similarly reflect the force of whole planets.

  1. Moon (Populus + Via): Amissio, Puer, Albus, Fortuna Maior
  2. Mercury (Albus + Coniunctio): Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus, Fortuna Minor
  3. Venus (Puella + Amissio): Albus, Fortuna Maior, Laetitia, Fortuna Minor
  4. Sun (Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Minor): Cauda Draconis, Acquisitio, Fortuna Maior, Tristitia
  5. Mars (Puer + Rubeus): Fortuna Maior, Tristitia, Acquisitio, Cauda Draconis
  6. Jupiter (Acquisitio + Laetitia): Albus, Fortuna Maior, Puer, Coniunctio
  7. Saturn (Tristitia + Carcer): Populus, Populus, Acquisitio, Coniunctio
  8. Lunar Nodes (Caput Draconis + Cauda Draconis): Fortuna Maior, Tristitia, Rubeus, Fortuna Minor

These charts can be used as talismanic images in their own right or augmented to other talismans to represent the entire force of a particular figure or planet.  Frater Pyramidatus also managed to link up the whole system of unique charts assigned to each geomantic figure into a more overarching diagram called “the Geomantic Pyramid”, which combines the geomantic figures, elements, and notions of the Male Principle and Female Principle.  It’s an interesting read, though I haven’t found a way to incorporate it into my own practice; Frater Pyramidatus operates (I believe) in a stricter Thelemic current, so maybe students of that tradition will get more out of it.  Still, I’ll leave the interested reader to join the group above and read for themselves.

In a similar manner, you might also use the geomantic emblems, or sequences of 16 lines like a geomantic figure that contain the essence of all 16 geomantic figures in a cohesive, single icon.  There are 256 such emblems, which can be analyzed elementally on their own, or grouped into 16 cycles of emblems.  Each cycle is associated with a particular figure, giving whole families of emblems a particular geomantic force underlying its nature.  If individual geomantic figures, which are combinations of the four classical elements, represent different states of the cosmos, then the geomantic emblems can be used to represent whole cosmoses or processes of the universe from one state to another fluidly.  The magical uses of these emblems is still mostly unexplored, but it wouldn’t do any harm to find a particular emblem structurally associated with a particular figure you want and elementally associated with a particular stage you want in a given situation and incorporate it into talismans or subtly-occult jewelry.  The notion of order, transition, and flow within the geomantic emblems does beg more investigation, especially in terms of “universal geomantic descriptors” of the cosmos.  You might do well to check out some of my meditations on how they might be explored and understood.

I once mentioned, long ago and separate from De Geomanteia, a particular set of geomantic mudras, or shapes and gestures one can make with the hands to concentrate and meditate upon the figures.  They can also be used as magical gestures, as well: in ritual, when wanting to direct the force of  a particular geomantic figure outward, one would make the mudra with the right (dominant) hand; when wanting to direct it inward towards yourself, one would make the mudra with the left (submissive) hand.  Consider the ASL sign for “I love you”, which is the mudra for Coniunctio, or the standard gesture used for Christian blessing, which is the mudra for Fortuna Maior.  When wanting to cause destruction or to lay a curse on someone, you might use the mudra for Cauda Draconis towards the target (like the surfer shaka/hang loose gesture).  These mudras can be thrown up in formal or informal ritual to act as a focus or “geomantic weapon” in their own right, depending on the need and context.  As a rule, the mudra should be selected based on the force desired: if one wants to start something new, one might throw the mudra of Caput Draconis, but if one wants someone to cut something out, one should use that of Cauda Draconis.  Based on the ruling elements of the figures and the natural motion of the figures (fire and air tend to go upward, water and earth tend to go downward), one could hold the mudra at different heights to affect the motion of the force:

  • Fire (burns upward): held high to “catch” and pull in Fire energy, held low to “burn away” and send out
  • Air (moves around but tends upward): any height works, but similar to Fire
  • Water (flows around but tends downward): any height works, but similar to Earth
  • Earth (falls downward): held low to “catch” and pull in Earth energy, held high to “drop” and send out

Plus, due to the “pure” elemental nature of the figures Laetitia (Fire), Rubeus (Air), Albus (Water), and Tristitia (Earth), these mudras are especially powerful for invoking and working with the elements.  Due to their internal, subjective nature, mudras for figures ruled by Fire and Water are more naturally suited to the left hand, with the right hand more suited to the external, objective elements of Air and Earth.  These attributions of right and left are assumed for a right-hand dominant magician; they may be kept the same or reversed for a left-hand dominant magician.

Every time I’ve talked about a figure in this series, I mentioned how you might get a certain shape or image if you play connect the dots with the figure. That method of making images or pictures by connecting the dots in different ways to form a variety of sigils; depending on the figure and depending on the method, a number of different sigils can be devised for a single figure.  Cornelius Agrippa gives a plentiful list of geomantic sigils in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book II, chapter 51) which can be used directly in magic or incorporated into talismans, either on their own or in conjunction with other signs and symbols, such as planetary squares, images and occult art, statement-derived sigils a la chaos magic, or qabbalistic diagrams or patterns.

Another use of the sigils, though I haven’t experimented with it personally, is to conjure the intelligence of the individual geomantic figure itself.  Beyond calling them “spirit of Puella” or “angel ruling over Fortuna Maior”, I had an idea to use the Hebrew names for the figures (based on Stephen Skinner’s Geomancy in Theory and Practice) and append the requisite -(i)el onto the end of the names.  Though I haven’t had experience with calling on these angels in relation to the geomantic figures, they should get good results, considering that their names are directly tied to those of the geomantic figures.  Instead of using these angels, one might conjure the angels ruling the zodiac signs or the planets associated with the figures (e.g. Malchidiel, angel of Aries, for Puer).  Instead of using the sigils for the geomantic figures as the seals for these angels, one might also draw out their names on their associated planetary qameas (using the Qamea of the Earth for the angels of Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis).  These are names based off the traditional names of the figures; should you contact them and get different names or sigils specific to them, let me know, because it’d be nice to have a set of standard names for these guys.

  • Populus: Qehilahiel (QHLHIAL, קהלהיאל)
  • Via: Derekhel (DRKAL, דרכאל)
  • Albus: Labaniel (LBNIAL, לבניאל)
  • Coniunctio: Chiburel (ChBURAL, חבוראל)
  • Puella: Halechiel (HLChIAL, הלחיאל)
  • Amissio: Abodel (ABUDAL, אבודאל)
  • Fortuna Maior: Elihiel (OLIHIAL, עליהיאל)
  • Fortuna Minor: Sheqiohel (ShQIOHAL, שקיוהאל)
  • Puer: Nilchamel (NLChMAL, נלחמאל)
  • Rubeus: Adomel (ADUMAL, אדומאל)
  • Acquisitio: Hashigiel (HShGIAL, השגיאל)
  • Laetitia: Nishoiel (NShUAIAL, נשואיאל)
  • Tristitia: Shefeliel (ShPLIAL, שפליאל)
  • Carcer: Sohariel (SUHRIAL, סוהריאל)
  • Caput Draconis: Rashithiel (RAShIThIAL, ראשיתיאל)
  • Cauda Draconis: Siumel (SIUMAL, סיומאל)

There are records and methods of assigning different letters to the geomantic figures, whether in the Roman, Greek, Hebrew, or Enochian languages.  Examples can be found in Golden Dawn’s use of Enochian Chess (images of the “chessboard” can be found here) as well as John Heydon’s Theomagia (book III, pp. 15-18, or pp. 323-325 on Scribd).  John Michael Greer also gives examples of assigning Roman letters to the geomantic figures in his book Art and Practice of Geomancy, perhaps based on Fludd’s or Heydon’s associations.  However, like with assigning numbers to the figures to tell time, I haven’t gotten good results in assigning the geomantic figures to letters to indicate names of people, places, or the like.  I’ve heard of others do so well enough, so your mileage may vary.

One way to incorporate geomantic divination into magical planning or geomantic magic involves the inspection of a given geomantic chart.  Say a querent wants to know whether something will happen that they really want to happen, but the chart denies the query and says “no, it won’t” (review this post on perfection, affirmation, on denial if you’re foggy on this).  By inspecting the significators of the querent and quesited, one can see what can done to “edit” the reality described by the chart to induce a perfection (though it might be best to limit this to the significator of the querent).  One might consider “adding” or “removing” elements from one’s life to change their significator into another one (such as “adding” Air to Puella to change it to Via, or “removing” Water from it to change it to Carcer), and see what effects that would have in the geomantic chart (either redrawing the whole chart from scratch or just superficially editing the house chart).  Doing the same with whole geomantic figures can also be done, such as adding Puella and Puer to form Coniunctio.

An old style of Arabic geomantic magic involves the use of taskins, or specific orderings of the sixteen geomantic figures as a kind of talisman.  One shown in Stephen Skinner’s book was used to find water, and there are references to other taskins to find treasure or similar objects.  I haven’t found very many of these, since it seems to be really old or obscure geomantic knowledge (at least as published in English or European publications), but one could use such orderings (say, four sets of four figures aligned to the four quarters based on their elements) for altar arrangements, geomantic Tables of Practice, or similar talismans.  Such orderings might share similarities with the geomantic emblems I mentioned above, but due to the dearth of information on the Arabic, African, or Middle Eastern uses of taskins in European languages, this is pretty much an unknown.  Unfortunately, until I learn Arabic or until someone who does is willing to take on a few translation projects for me, not much is going to change in this situation.  Although some taskins might be ordered by astrological principles (ruling planet, ruling sign, etc.), other takins might be derived from the unique charts above or the geomantic emblems.  Definitely something to experiment in the future with.

Arabic Geomantic Talisman

To give an example of geomantic magic, say Jane Doe wants to marry John Smith in the next year.  Marriage can be benefitted magically from a number of figures, but Coniunctio is probably the best.  So, to achieve her desired goal, Jane might do any or all of the following:

  • Make a talisman of the figure Coniunctio with associated mercurial, Virgoan materials and timing, since Coniunctio is a figure representing union, a coming together of forces and people, and marriage; such a talisman might have a sigil of the figure on one side and its associated unique chart on the other.
  • Conjure Chiburel, the angel watching over Coniunctio, perhaps under the guidance of the angel of Mercury Raphael, to invoke and manifest the forces of Coniunctio between herself and John.
  • Intone the vowel epsilon (associated with Mercury) in a day and hour of Mercury over an image of her and John put together, with a sigil of Coniunctio drawn over them, perhaps incorporated with yet other sigils a la chaos magic.
  • Throw the geomantic mudra for Coniunctio (which looks a lot like the ASL sign for “I love you”) around in John’s presence, perhaps visualizing a sigil for Coniunctio directed or “thrown” at him.
  • Make a small hemp or chain bracelet tied or knotted in a manner that makes use of the geomantic emblem for Coniunctio, starting at the position where Caput Draconis appears, repeating a short incantation to lure, tie, and conjoin John to her.
  • Cast a candle spell that uses six candles set out in the dot pattern of Coniunctio in a day and hour of Venus, placing a picture of her between the candles of the earth line and a picture of John between the candles of the fire line.

Assume for a bit that a geomancer throws a chart to see whether it’s possible that they can be married in the next year; the chart comes up with a negative answer, with Tristitia as the significator for Jane and Fortuna Maior for John.  There’s no perfection, but the structures for Tristitia and Fortuna Maior are similar, differing only in the water line (i.e. Tristitia has water passive, Fortuna Maior has water active).  Jane might consider “adding” the elemental force of water to her own self and life, perhaps by reaching out emotionally to connect with John more than she is or swimming more and being surrounded by blue and watery things, which would have the effect of transforming Tristitia to Fortuna Maior, which would induce perfection by occupation, turning the negative answer from the chart into a positive one.  The same could be accomplished by working with the figure Albus similarly, since Albus and Tristitia combine to form Fortuna Maior, perhaps by being more reflective and in touch with oneself, or by working with the angel Labaniel to make one more watery and spiritually deep.

At their core, the geomantic figures are another set of symbols that can blend or bind with other symbols in magic.  You might incorporate the geomantic figures into sigils, or use the sigils of the geomantic figures themselves, in a sigil web.  Drawing the geomantic figure on consecrated paper or scrolls to keep as talismans, or using candle arrangements in the form of geomantic figures, would be good ritual uses of the geomantic figures.  Conjurework and hoodoo might also benefit, by using the geomantic figures as talismans on paper or clay, burning or crushing them up into dust, and mixing them in with other powders to lay over someone as a target/victim/beneficiary.  The ability to use geomantic figures and geomancy in magic is as wide and varied as the kinds of magic out there entirely, so feel free to experiment and use the geomantic figures in whatever way might seem useful or interesting.

As a rule, before performing any magic working (geomantic or otherwise), it’s suggested that the magician perform a divination to make sure it’s both advisable and feasible to use magic to a particular end.  In other words, the magician should always ask “can I use magic to attain my goal?” before actually using magic as a part of planning.  To understand these charts, see whether the Judge is favorable to the working and whether perfection exists with the proper house.  Magic is related to four houses in geomantic charts:

  • Sixth house: magic you ask others to do on your behalf as a service
  • Eighth house: magic you do generally, e.g. those that involve lesser spirits, demons, witchcraft
  • Ninth house: magic you do with celestial, theurgic, divine, or philosophical forces, e.g. astrological talismans, prayer to attain a desired end
  • Twelfth house: magic done by others against you, especially without your knowledge

Additionally, you might want to inspect the seventh house (anyone working with you, a partner, a consultant, a spiritual worker, etc.) and the fourth house (the end result of the magical operation) to get a feel for other factors in magic-related situations.  The Part of Spirit, or Index, often indicates spiritual considerations related to queries and their resolution, which is doubly important in questions of magic.

And that concludes my 20-part series De Geomanteia, a weekly series of posts on the sixteen figures that constitute the alphabet of geomancy as well as four posts on geomantic technique. This series was a lot more fun to write than I expected it to be, and you guys gave some really good feedback during the whole process both on the blog and off.  Thank you, dear readers, for sticking it through with me, and I hope you learned at least a bit about this venerable and ancient divination system, if not inspired to use it in your own work. Would you guys have any other questions, queries, quandries, or comments to make about geomancy?  Or would you have anything to share in addition to what I’ve posted, especially about incorporating geomancy with magic?

De Geomanteia: Tristitia (give up on this don’t give up on us)

Since one of my most favorite topics in occultism and magic is divination, specifically the divinatory art of geomancy, why not talk about that? I know a lot about it, and not many do, so let’s go with it. If nothing else, you’ll come away slightly more educated, and I’ll come away with something looking like productivity. With that in mind, let’s continue this little series of posts on geomancy, “De Geomanteia” (On Geomancy). This week, let’s talk about this figure:

Tristitia

Tristitia

This is the figure Tristitia.  In Latin, its name means “Sorrow”, but also has the names of “upside down” or “relapsed” in some Arabic traditions, as well as the names of “damned” or “diminished”.  If you (quite literally) connect the dots, you might come up with a figure that looks like a stake, a pit, or a collapsed building.

First, the technical details of this figure.  It’s associated with Saturn in direct motion and the astrological signs of Aquarius or Scorpio; due to its Saturnine qualities, it’s also associated with the sephirah Binah.  It has only the earth line active with everything else passive, and so given to the element of Earth.  It is an odd figure with seven points, relating more to internal states of the subjective mind than external states of objective reality.  It is a stable and entering, showing it to be slow-moving and long-lasting where it appears.  In the body, it signifies the lower legs, ankles, and circulatory system.  Its inverse figure (everything this figure is not on an external level) is Cauda Draconis, the Dragon’s Tail, showing that this figure is not quick to change, not prone to end, not externally calamitous.  Its reverse figure (the same qualities of this figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme) is Laetitia, joy, showing that this figure is not happy, not free, not open or easily-seen.  Its converse figure (the same qualities of this figure expressed in a similar manner) is Caput Draconis, the Dragon’s Head, showing that it is similarly slow-moving, stable, and able to continue in a single direction for a long time.  Tristitia is about going down or going south in any way, including lowered spirits, depression, depressed health, lowered expectations, and getting stuck in a rut.  It often refers to an internal state of failure or self-crossing, as opposed to an external incarceration or being cursed from outside, and is generally unfavorable.  However, it is helpful for anything related to land, subterranean or chthonic matters, and keeping things secret or stable.

Rock climbers can have it tough, especially when they feel obliged by their hobby to scale behemoths of mountain that, no matter how far they ascend, always makes them feel like they’re stuck at the bottom of an infinite height.  It’s slow and rough, too: he has to clutch to any crevice he can find, if he can find one at all.  Any slip or mistake, and he falls, falls, falls, and no matter how much he pretends the distance below him is trivial, he feels like his own progress up the mountain isn’t getting him anywhere at all.  Driving a nail into the rock face (ting, ting, ting) is slow work, and has to be done over and over again to support him.  He has to take out his old stakes, and successfully pulls one out at the cost of tearing a few feet of rope; he yells in a brief shot of fear, though he secures himself just afterward.  His heart sinks with every mistake and mishap he makes, but with every mistake he makes a bit of progress, though not on the mountain itself.  Despite the cold wind whipping around him and feeling desolate and deserted, he has no choice but to continue.  With his only choice to go, go, go, he has to continue toiling to do anything.  Right now, it sucks, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.  He will survive and succeed and surmount this cliff, but not before a long, and hopeless journey first.

Climbing Great Sail Peak

Like its reverse figure Laetitia, Tristitia is another emotional figure that represents pretty clearly what its name signifies: sorrow, grief, sadness, depression, malaise, malcontent.  It’s nothing particularly good, and what’s worse is that it takes time for it to pass.  Unlike cheerful, easy-come easy-go Laetitia, Tristitia lingers even when it’s not nailed down.  Happiness is often found in passing while doing things proper to one’s nature, but Tristitia prevents actions from being done due to being in a depression.  It’s tough to deal with, but it too shall pass.  However, the image of Tristitia as a stake or nail also give it the implication of support, structure, stability, foundation, and construction, in all of which Tristitia is fairly favorable.

Having only the earth line active and all others passive, Tristitia is ruled and assigned to the element of Earth.  According to Cornelius Agrippa (book I, chapter 3), Earth is assigned the qualities of being dry, cold, thick, dark, heavy, and quiet.  Earth’s natural motion is downward, since it’s the weightiest and heaviest of the elements, and is also the most mutable and the basis for all other things that exist in our world (pure elements only exist in their respective realms).  Put into human terms, Tristitia is pure work, focusing strictly on material results, but has the effect of bringing melancholy or depression (downward spirits) into one’s life.  Plus, with Earth being the most stable and most rigid of the elements, the effects of Tristitia (and, similarly, toil and depression) last for a long time as well. 

This is closely associated with its association with Saturn, being the slowest-moving and darkest of the planets, also being the Greater Malefic and usually pretty awful to work with.  Saturn rules over pain, trouble, being harassed, melancholy, depression, paucity, scarcity, and sometimes even mortal trouble.  However, Tristitia is associated with Saturn in direct motion, indicating that it’s actually proceeding in matters and accomplishing something, as well as with airy and bright Aquarius.  Though Tristitia represents downward motion, if not the bottom of the barrel, it can also be said that when you’re at the bottom the only way out is up.  Aquarius, unlike rigid Capricorn, is eager to develop new methods of tackling and ruling the world, and so uses its melancholy as a base to build new structures to rise back up.  In this case, Tristitia is like the dark of a tunnel one is wandering through, guided only by the barest glimmer of light, or the promise of a ledge for a weary rock-climber to eventually rest on.

Tristitia has interesting connections with the other two figures ruled by Saturn, Carcer and Cauda Draconis (its inverse figure).  While Carcer represents external delay and obligations, Tristitia represents internal obligation and getting stuck in a rut.  It’s the difference of where the issues of delay and force come from: Carcer indicates outside forces imprisoning one usually due to displeasing or misunderstood aims (fire and earth active), while Tristitia shows an internal depression dragging one down from achieving any good (only earth active).  On the other hand, Cauda Draconis indicates a lack of support and that things are ripe for ending (everything but earth active), while Tristitia represents a lack of support but with no other choice but to continue on (nothing but earth active); having opposite elemental structures, their end goals are different, but they manifest similarly.  Cauda Draconis also indicates someone actively laying a curse against a victim, while Tristitia can show being crossed or being blocked or held down by one’s own choices.  Tristita is a deeply internal figure, showing problems caused or continued by oneself even though the external world may have nothing to do with it.

In geomancy readings, Tristitia means decrease, though not necessarily loss; any amount, health, support, or concordance will be put under strain and often wane under the influence of this figure.  It’s good in matters of acquiring or owning land, agriculture, construction, or keeping things hidden, dark, obscured, secret, or underground in any sense.  Otherwise, Tristitia is pretty unfavorable in most matters, sometimes indicating demotion at work, tightness of funds, a decrease of respect or recognition, and so forth.  Tristitia in magical use is probably best suited to keeping things hidden or secret, and also to keeping things fixed or stable for a long time; inscribing Tristitia on cornerstones or on foundation stones would be very good uses, as well as using it on talismans for agricultural fortune and fecund harvests.  Used maliciously, Tristitia is excellent for inducing lethargy, depression, or malaise in victims, being an offensive and outgoing source of Saturnine energy.

De Geomanteia: Carcer (on the inside of this marble house I grow)

Since one of my most favorite topics in occultism and magic is divination, specifically the divinatory art of geomancy, why not talk about that? I know a lot about it, and not many do, so let’s go with it. If nothing else, you’ll come away slightly more educated, and I’ll come away with something looking like productivity. With that in mind, let’s continue this little series of posts on geomancy, “De Geomanteia” (On Geomancy). This week, let’s talk about this figure:

Carcer

Carcer

This is the figure Carcer.  In Latin, its name means “Prison”, which is pretty common in many traditions, but also called “constriction” or “bound together”.  If you (quite literally) connect the dots, you might come up with a figure that looks like a ring, a cell, or two people facing away from each other.

First, the technical details of this figure.  It’s associated with Saturn in retrograde motion and the astrological signs of Capricorn or Pisces, depending on whom you ask; due to its Saturnine qualities, it’s also associated with the sephirah Binah.  It has the fire and earth lines active with air and water passive, and so given to the element of Earth.  It is an even figure with six points, relating to objective situations rather than internal or subjective events.  It is a stable and entering, showing it to be slow-moving and long-lasting where it appears.  In the body, it is associated with the knees and bones.  Its inverse figure (everything this figure is not on an external level) is Coniunctio, the Conjunction, showing that this figure is not decisive, not transient, and not sociable or in contact with others.  Its reverse figure (the same qualities of this figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme) is the same, Carcer itself, showing that this figure is the same from all points of view.  Its converse figure (the same qualities of this figure expressed in a similar manner) is Coniunctio, showing that it is cyclical, pausing, and foundational.  Carcer is fairly negative as far as geomantic figures go, often indicating delay, restriction, obligation, and isolation from one’s desires.  One is often held back or restrained from contact or completing one’s works when this figure appears, even literal imprisonment; however, due to its isolation, it also indicates stability and security.  It is favorable when one wants to maintain or enforce a given situation, but generally poor otherwise.

The inner temple, the inside of a large pyramidal structure, empty and barren, the floor covered with sand.  The ancient large door, once bright and intricately engraved, has been sealed shut long ago, nobody able to open it; the sand eroded its carvings, the dust covers what color remains.  The whole chamber echoes, all softly aglow from the dust.  Light pours in through a single aperture high up on the apex of the pyramid, far out of reach for any contact or assistance.  The only thing present in the entire chamber is an old man, long ago incarcerated in this prison.  He angrily puts around his prison endlessly, forever stuck, forever sealed away, reaching down into the sand with a clenched fist and throwing it at the light in frustration and acrimony, screaming in fury.  He has much to say and much to do, having been planning for years, but has no way to enact what he wants; all he can do is think and wait, held back by the walls that enclose him.  He has no means to interact or to connect with others; he can think of things only so much, and nothing deep due to the lack of inspiration, religion, and philosophy to draw on.  He is both physically, intellectually, and emotionally starved.  All he thinks about are plans; scribbles on the walls and in the sand guide him, shifting here, erasing there, reincorporating old ideas there.  Without anyone to see him, help him, or value his plans, he can do nothing. 

Jail Cell

Carcer is a tough figure to deal with, not gonna lie.  As a figure of Saturn, Capricorn, Earth, darkness, and stability, Carcer takes all that symbolism and runs with it in the most concrete way geomancy knows how.  The name itself, meaning “prison”, is again indicative of its significations: something is trapped, held back, restrained, delayed, or refrained from accomplishing or interacting with others.  Then again, this idea of resolute, impermeable structure has its upsides, too.

In the geocentric model of the universe (pretty reliable when it comes to Hermetic philosophy and cosmology in general), where the Earth is at the center of the cosmos, the rest of the planets revolve around the Earth in concentric “shells” or spheres.  Above the Earth, we have, in order, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, then the background fixed stars, and beyond that we have, essentially, the Divine Source.  Saturn is the last planet, the last distinctly formed thing, separating the manifested world from the manifesting and unmanifest world; going the other way, Saturn is the first planet where form is possible, coming from the Source of manifestation doing its job, and allowing Matter to afterward fill the outlines of Form that Saturn provides.  Saturn is about limitations, boundaries, walls, and definition, and so is a natural ruler of prisons, obligations, responsibilities, and being held to something.  It represents the guiding forces that show us “up to this point and no further”, indicating where we need to expand and by how much, and often how.

Further, by having set boundaries, one can keep one’s identity and sphere safe from the outside.  Prisons may keep what’s inside from getting out, but they also keep what’s outside from getting in.  Still, outside influences can determine the shape of those boundaries, often in the form of social obligation and restriction, which the prisoner inside must follow; this is where the astrological signs of Capricorn (indicating social responsibility and obligation to goals) and Populus (being with others and having to fit into a given definition and role) give Carcer some of its astrological symbolism.  Either sign works, but in my experience, attributing the social pressures of Populus and the need or obligation to fit in and follow through with others works better with the image of Carcer.

Elementally, Carcer is an Earthy figure, but is probably better described as “dry”, having both the dry elements of fire and earth active without the moist elements of air or water present.  Moisture is the quality that allows forces to mingle, flow, and actively interact with each other; Carcer has neither of these.  The natural motions, how the different elements tend to move in their pure states, don’t help the image here, either: Fire burns upward, Earth falls downward, both moving away from each other.  The elemental structure of Carcer implies a total disconnect and separation from other forces, without any sort of emotional or communicative interaction to bridge the gap between them.  One can have all the plans and specifications in the world and all the resources to execute them with, but without a method to bridge the two, one will just be drawing in the sand unable to accomplish anything.

The shape that the figure Carcer makes is a circle, which itself has some valuable information for the geomancer.  Circles are lines with no beginning and no end, completely demarcating a whole area from the rest of the world. As such, circles are often used in magic to separate, isolate, seal in, or shut out, and many conjurations or rituals make use of circles for protection of the magician or for isolation of a spirit to be summoned.  Circles can also be indicative of repetition and getting trapped in a loop, indicating delay, such as when a spirit tries to escape and gets caught in a loop ’round and ’round the circle.  Chain links and wedding rings, both circular, also keep one locked into a given situation for better or for worse.  Without any change in situation, Carcer is a stable figure, and without any change in direction or in perspective from the outside, Carcer is also liminal.

When Carcer appears in a geomancy reading, it’s going to indicate restriction and delay, no matter where it appears.  As Judge, it indicates that the status quo will be enforced, likely due to obligations or a set regulation that must be followed by multiple parties; elsewhere, it indicates stress or tension without chance for resolution, having to put up with something for the time being and dealing with any obligation or responsibility one’s been tasked with.  Being Saturnine, it can often indicate sparseness, poorness, paucity, and having precious little of something.  It’s good when things need strictness, isolation, security, or stability, but otherwise, it tends to be a pretty dour figure.  Carcer is helpful in magic when one wants to lock something down or keep things fixed in a certain situation, such as keeping one’s job when others are being given pink slips, it’s also good when wanting to induce paucity or greed in others’ lives and spheres, if not outright disconnecting them from sources of help or assistance they might otherwise rely on.